New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Tsiling and Tulile- Declaration of Intent

I am not sure when I met Raymond Matts for the first time. I am sure about the where, at a Sniffapalooza lunch during a Spring Fling or Fall Ball. He gave a talk which spoke to the room about the state of perfume at that moment in time. He boldly declared perfume blogging as irrelevant. I was just starting to write and I wondered if he was right. Here was a man with a wealth of experience from nearly thirty years in the fragrance business. I like people who take provocative stances and I listened to all he said and considered his hypothesis.

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Raymond Matts

Mr. Matts has shown the same surety whenever our paths have crossed in the years since. Late in 2014 I found out he was going to have his own brand of perfume. Like so much about Mr. Matts these perfumes are declarative statements of intent. In my initial testing I have found all seven to have distinct pleasures. I want to really give all of them a little more time than I would normally and so my reviews of the entire line are going to happen in a series over the next few weeks. For this first installment I am going to focus on Tsiling and Tulile.

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Olivier Gillotin

The names of all of the fragrances are made up words meant to convey something about them. In the press materials it is said they are meant to smell the way they sound. More than any other Tsiling lives up to this. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin was given a brief to capture a plastic flower which exudes a natural scent. This makes Tsiling a lively exercise with M. Gillotin having to strike just the right balance between the artificial and the natural. His choice is to start with the natural and allow for the artificial to provide the finish. The top notes are a mix of an aquatic accord, some green notes, and pear. The pear is most prominent and the other notes provide the more natural watery green of nature. As you move into the heart orris comes first and it is a rooty version. After M. Gillotin adds honeysuckle and what is named as rice notes the whole thing seems to plasticize in a time-lapse fashion. It just goes from natural to unnatural over the course of an hour or so. Then for the majority of the time I wore Tsiling it smells like a plastic flower scented with natural oils. Very late a bit of patchouli comes out but it is very minimal in nature. Tsiling has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Christophe Laudamiel

Lots of perfumes marketed to men are said to be bracing. That usually means loud and overpowering most of the time. For Tulile Mr. Matts asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to create a masculine perfume which was embracing, instead. It starts off with a traditional zing of citrus over some aquatic notes. This is a common trope for men’s perfume. M. Laudamiel then starts to shift the paradigm as he uses lily of the valley as the floral heart of Tulile. This is a very floral muguet which combines very well with the watery citrus. It is because the citrus sticks around that Tulile doesn’t become overtly floral. For the base notes M. Laudamiel mixes two woody aromachemicals, Polywood and Ambrox. There is an interesting effect I have found with synthetics like both of these. By themselves they often irritate me. But if they are the right two synthetics they form an accord which is very pleasant. In the case of Tulile the Polywood and Ambrox form an opaque woody accord which is surprisingly soft for something composed of synthetic components. Tulile has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I’ll be back over the next few weeks with reviews of the other five perfumes in the line.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes Peace, Love, and Perfume- Serious Fun

I think there are times I probably attach too much importance to the business of perfume. It is why I am glad there are opportunities to shake off the self-important stance and remember that perfume is fun. An ongoing opportunity for me to do this has been The PLP Project created to celebrate the third anniversary of the Facebook group Peace-Love-Perfume, or in this world of abbreviated terms, PLP. The originator and ringmaster of the group, Carlos J. Powell, reached out to a number of perfumers to create a perfume. One of the perfumers he contacted was Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes. He gave her a simple brief for each of three perfumes, one for each word in the group name. He asked for Peace to be “a meditative incense fragrance.” Love to be “a sexy animalic fragrance.” Perfume to be “a traditional cologne with a twist on the concept.” Ms. Hurwitz loves these kind of open-ended concepts and I suspect it is because she has fun just letting it rip. One of the things I admire about her is that while these might have a bit more light-heartedness to them they are never anything less than perfumes with Ms. Hurwitz’s consummate skill on display.

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When asked for a meditative incense fragrance as Peace Ms. Hurwitz decides she isn’t just going to rely on the classics like frankincense and myrrh. Nope she throws in a bit of Laotian oud, Bakul attar, and Choya Ral. On top a bit of green champaca leaf and a pairing of rose de mai and orris adds some floralcy but this is the promised incense fragrance. My only quibble is with it being meditative. Peace is a resin lover’s house party. It is so full of interesting resins and combinations I am sure I could never just contemplate a single point while wearing this. It is just like the best gatherings with way too many interesting people around you can’t stop for fear you might miss something. Each time I wore Peace the resins presented themselves slightly differently and that increased my enjoyment immensely.

When Ms. Hurwitz is asked for an animalic fragrance as she was for Love I know I am in for something memorable. Ms. Hurwitz and I have spent a lot of time talking about the great perfumes of the past. When asked to go animalic I knew she would be thinking about those classics. As she did with Peace she makes sure Love is not going to be lacking and so she takes musk, civet, castoreum, and ambergris which are the foundation of those mid-twentieth century perfumes and then twists it with a combination of more contemporary botanical animalics, ambrette, labdanum, and hyracium. This is all matched with a fantastic indolic jasmine and gardenia. This is so over-the-top it reminded me of Norma Desmond and a line she never said, “I am big. It’s the perfume that got small.” Love does feel a bit like an unearthed relic of a few decades ago but it is a delightful riff on perfume from that time period as only a student of those perfumes could accomplish.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

As regular readers know I love this renaissance of cologne we are currently in. By asking Ms. Hurwitz to deliver a twisted cologne in Perfume I was very excited.  The first twist begins by using a large dose of rhubarb paired with grapefruit. There is a wonderful synergy between these two notes but the real twist comes when she soaks them in a jigger of cognac. This rapidly flows in to an herbal heart of basil paired with fruit and a jasmine-like pittosporum. The transition from the top to the heart is not as abrupt as it might sound. Ms. Hurwitz has smoothed the transition out so it is more gradual than it might seem. Ambrette and vetiver provide a traditional finish to Perfume but there were plenty of twists and turns before allowing us to catch our breath at the end.

Peace and Love are extrait strength and last for 12-14 hours on my skin with minimal sillage. Perfume lasts for 6-8 hours with average sillage.

All three perfumes show Ms. Hurwitz at her best taking a very broad brief and composing three perfumes with a joyful abandon which permeates every moment of Peace, Love, and Perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Zoologist Perfumes Beaver, Panda, & Rhinoceros- Mr. Wong Bought a Zoo

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One of the things 2014 is going to be remembered for is the number of different places which fostered perfumes. Victor Wong of Toronto,Canada is a good example of this. After staying at a hotel and becoming enamored of their bath products he threw himself headlong into studying perfume and how that scent came to be. Earlier this year that led him to found Zoologist Perfumes. Mr. Wong would ask two very different independent perfumers, Chris Bartlett and Paul Kiler, to help him realize his vision of his first three perfumes: Beaver, Panda, and Rhinoceros.

Victor Wong

Victor Wong

As you can tell by the name of the perfumes and the brand itself Mr. Wong wanted to create animal inspired perfumes but with the added degree of difficulty of using no animal-derived products. This posed a challenge to both Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Kiler. I can say both found ingenious solutions to the restriction placed upon them.

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Chris Bartlett

Beaver was signed by Mr. Bartlett whose own line of perfume is called Pell Wall. There is a line on that website that describes his creations as, “fragrances that some people will love, rather than perfumes everyone will like.” Beaver lives up to that motto as in consultation with Mr. Wong they wanted to capture the smell of the beaver lodge. The remains of the smell of the animal itself among the trees used to build the lodge. In most cases Mr. Bartlett would just reach for the actual raw ingredient from a beaver, castoreum, and go from there. This time he had to create a castoreum accord. This results in a truly fascinating beast which is completely animalic but it has a bit of complexity and flexibility real castoreum just doesn’t have.  A matador-like bit of citrus reveals linden underneath. The castoreum accord comes next and it is dark and clean at the same time. It also goes really well with the musks Mr. Bartlett chose. Those musks add a bit of wateriness before a set of woody notes make you realize you’re surrounded by chewed down trees. Beaver might be the best animalic perfume for those turned off by civet and real castoreum because by creating an accord using non-animal ingredients it makes it more approachable. It also makes it more interesting. Beaver has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage.

Paul Kiler

Paul Kiler

Panda was signed by Mr. Kiler who also has produced a number of perfumes under his PK Perfumes label. Instead of reproducing the animal Mr. Kiler instead chose to focus on the surroundings of a typical Panda in China. He would assemble a grouping of Asian raw materials like bamboo, zisu leaves, Sichuan pepper, pemou root, and Buddha’s hand citron. Mr. Kiler sends you on a journey into the Chinese countryside in search of a Panda but along the way you are instead captured by the natural beauty surrounding you. It opens with a misty green accord courtesy of bamboo, citron, and zisu leaves. It is the brilliant green of a stand of bamboo. Mr. Kiler then weaves in osmanthus and orange blossom. The orange blossom is just the right floral foil for the green opening. Osamnthus’ leathery quality makes you believe the panda you seek might have just been here. You finally end in a forested grove of sandalwood and pemou trees. Pemou is a creamy balsamic raw material and when blended with sandalwood you get a lovely soft accord. A spiral of incense skirls across the woods at the end. You may not find the panda you were looking for but sometimes the journey can be the goal. Panda has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rhinoceros was also signed by Mr. Kiler and it is my favorite of the first three. One of the reasons is this is much less a perfume about a rhinoceros or where you find a rhinoceros. It is instead a perfume which is an abstraction of the size and power of the titular beast. Mr. Kiler brings together vibrantly overt notes like rum, tobacco, and leather. He doesn’t let them charge across the savannah at you. He allows them to come together in the knowledge that they could send you flying but from a distance they exude a presence. Rum, lavender, and sage form the opening salvo. Mr. Kiler has balanced them expertly and the booziness on top of the sage and lavender forms a drunken greenish accord which I really enjoyed. Tobacco holds the heart together and it is surrounded by some immortelle to make the tobacco sweeter. Pine and cedar form a frame to hold the tobacco within. Leather is the base note over which Mr. Kiler layers amber, smoke, and vetiver. This could have been a smoky animalic miasma but Mr. Kiler keeps control of all of the ingredients so they come off in their best light. Rhinoceros is my favorite because it was more representation than reality and I like my imagination to be part of the perfume wearing experience. Rhinoceros has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

My hat is off to Mr. Wong, Mr. Bartlett, and Mr. Kiler on a very impressive debut. I hope that 2015 sees an expansion of the olfactory menagerie begun here.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Isabey Lys Noir- Noir Done Right

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One of the most used words in perfume names is “noir”.  According to Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World there are over 150 perfumes with the word in their name. I feel very Inigo Montoya-like, from “The Princess Bride”, when I use his quote, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” What Noir should be is something with depth and perhaps a bit of intrigue and danger. What happens all too often is the perfume rounds up a bunch of heavy notes slams them together and points and says, “Noir!” I do not think it means what you think it means. When I receive a sample with noir in the name it almost immediately brings out my inner Inigo Montoya. When I received my sample of the new Isabey Lys Noir it turned out my inner skeptic would be shelved for a perfume which absolutely understands what noir is.

Isabey was a perfume house which had its heyday back in the 1920’s. It was a much desired brand for the socialite set and especially Gardenia left its mark. After the Great Depression Isabey was much changed and eventually was discontinued. In 2002 Panouge acquired the brand and re-released Gardenia. Perfumer Jean Jacques would do a creditable job and over a number of limited releases Gardenia would sell out time and again. Panouge then began, in 2009, allowing M. Jacques to start adding to Gardenia by reformulating more of the classic Isabey perfumes. Lys Noir is the fourth of those perfumes to be released. Lys Noir was first released in 1924 and in that time frame art deco and noir originated and became inextricably linked. M. Jacques has done a fantastic job at re-creating a perfume which captures both of those influences.

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Jean Jacques

In those noir fragrances I derided in my opening paragraph a note like black pepper would be used because black=noir in the pedestrian mind. In Lys Noir, M. Jacques uses black pepper as an opening bit of punctuiuation.  A leading exclamation point. Black pepper can be such a vibrant note when done right and here is it exactly that. It leads into one of the best white flower hearts I’ve smelled in a long time. The lily that is in the name is there but the real stars of Lys Noir are tuberose and narcissus. These are notes which act like flappers of the time period; free spirited, assured along with a bit of attitude. M. Jacques get the balance just right here as the tuberose and the narcissus meld together like old friends. The lily tints it slightly green and heliotrope adds some high harmonics. This is where M. Jacques gets noir right. At this point Lys Noir feels very retro, it also feels like it might be right on the edge of getting out of control. There is also a narcotic quality to white flowers in high doses and that is also present. The base doesn’t disappoint as it transitions to a dark mahogany wood accord. If you’ve ever smelled a fine mahogany piece of furniture oiled and polished this is the wood accord which forms the base of Lys Noir. Some patchouli and musk round it out.

Lys Noir has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

For one of the very few times a perfume with noir in the name gets it right. Lys Noir is a brilliant perfumed time capsule which reflects the sensibilities of its time frame beautifully.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Keiko Mecheri Embruns- Crashing Surf

Every day is an opportunity to learn new things. A recent new thing I learned was co-incidentally the name of a new perfume release. When I eagerly received the new Keiko Mecheri Embruns I thought the name was a take-off on embers and so I was expecting smoke and incense. I was so very surprised to find something entirely different. It turned out the word embruns has nothing to do with smoke or fire. It actually has something to do with the ocean and the waves. Embruns is the French word for the spray which comes off the crashing of waves against the shore. It turns out to be an apt word which does match the perfume inside the bottle.

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Keiko Mecheri

In the press release Embruns is described as “water for a Japanese eccentric literati”. Embruns does use an ethereal sea spray note early on but it eventually leads to a floral heart before turning into clean woods and a bit of sweet. It is a concept of austere controlled masculinity with only the sea spray allowing any entropy to decay the order.

Embruns takes that typical aquatic accord and turns it sheer and slightly opaque. In other compositions this accord would make you feel like you were standing right on the beach. In Embruns it is more like you are looking down from a cliff at a distance as the waves pummel the rock face. The wind carries the spray to you from afar. What is also here is the Japanese citron called Yuzu. It adds a citiric foundation for the sea spray to settle upon. This is a finely honed opening where getting the right balance had to be very difficult. The heart is a little easier as orris transitions from the yuzu and sea spray into a sturdy floral heart. The orris sets the stage for a very refined leather accord to join it. Leather and orris are becoming one of my favorite perfume pairings as they seem to complement each other very nicely. Here after the orris is present the leather provides a richness that turns the iris into something quite virile. The base notes go woody with sandalwood picking up on the creamy qualities of the leather and the cedar cleanly framing the orris. A pinch of vanilla makes it a tiny bit sweet, too.

Embruns has 10-12 hour longevity and modest sillage. This is one of those fragrances that you will think is gone only to have someone comment on how nice you smell.

You might think after so long Ms. Mecheri might have little new to say. Embruns is evidence to the contrary. It shows a creative effort that has done nothing but become more sophisticated over time.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Memo French Leather- Before Sunrise

I don’t know why I am having such strong evocations of some of my favorite movies as I smell new perfumes lately. Get ready the latest release from Memo called French Leather has me seeing a particular movie every time I wear it. The seeds of the connection were planted when I was speaking with John Molloy, the co-founder of Memo, at Pitti Fragranze in September. He only had enough for me to test on a strip and a bit of skin. As we spoke we came up with the idea of a young Parisienne walking along the Seine late at night in a leather skirt holding a rose she received earlier in the evening. French Leather was the scent of a young sophisticate who has things to say while looking equally as fashionable. Even as I sniffed at my wrist throughout the day at Pitti I knew there was someone in my memory banks trying to claim this fragrance as her own. It wasn’t until I actually had a sample and wore it for a day that it finally made itself clear to me. French Leather is the scent of Celine of Art Linklater’s 1995 movie “Before Sunrise”.

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Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in "Before Sunrise"

For those unfamiliar with the movie an American, Jesse, and Celine meet on a train. Jesse is heading to Vienna to fly back to the States. Celine is returning to Paris to continue her university studies. Jesse convinces her to stay with him in Vienna, until his flight leaves the next morning, and they spend the night walking and talking. Actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy portray two adults still trying to figure out what their future holds for them. Both of them speak as only a scriptwriter can provide for them. Even so the actors are so charming it has always been a favorite movie of mine. Celine is a young woman who enjoys her youth while still holding on to a romantic ideal of what her future might be. French Leather is that mix of the insouciance of youth over the development of a sophisticated adult. Creative Director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet have made a rose and leather perfume that exudes playfulness and elegance in equal measures.

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Alienor Massenet

Few notes will do a better job of providing a bit of fun than the lime note which opens French Leather. After speaking with M. Molloy lime was not what I expected to be the first thing I smelled. Mme Massenet’s lime is that quirky smile from a smart woman who clearly has a sense of humor. It is made even more vibrant by the addition of juniper berry and pink pepper. They provide the intelligence underneath the laughter. The heart is the passion of our imaginary young woman as a full-blooded rose wears itself on its sleeve. It is very extroverted as it is expansive and for a good while it is the rose which you smell. Eventually you find a bit of herbal green quality which comes from clary sage. The sage is an announcement that the leather is on its way.  Mme Massenet uses a refined leather accord, the kind which would be used to make an article of clothing like a skirt. She then uses styrax, vetiver, and musk to provide textural contrast. The rose is still going strong as the leather accord takes some time to resolve itself and eventually stand tall. The last few hours are the smell of the rose and leather together.

French Leather has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Memo is one of my favorite perfume lines because Mmes Molloy and Massenet have formed a fabulous partnership which has created one of the standout collections in all of perfumery. French Leather is another excellent addition to the brand.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Memo.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review CB I Hate Perfume M6 Do Not Ask Me Why- Opium Den

One of my favorite movies is Sergio Leone’s 1984 release “Once Upon a Time in America”. In the director’s cut version of the movie the lead character Noodles played by actor Robert De Niro retreats to an opium den after a tragedy. The final shot of the movie is of Noodles in that opium den with a smile on his face. One interpretation of the movie is everything we see in the movie from the point Noodles starts puffing on the pipe is his hallucination. The power of opium to inspire artistic endeavors is well-known. Perfumer Christopher Brosius was fascinated with how opium while destructive to the person using it might also inspire an open creativity. Jean Cocteau struggled with an addiction to opium throughout the 1920’s and that experience would inform much of his output for the rest of his life.  In the press materials Mr. Brosius asks the obvious question: “Why would an artist choose so destructive a medium to enable such visions no matter how fabulous or sublime? Why is a poet compelled to write or an artist to create? Cocteau himself best answered that question in the subtitle of his final work: Do not ask me why.” Mr. Brosius wanted to make a perfume which captures the reportedly “hauntingly beautiful” smell of opium smoke and it is the sixth entry in the Metamorphosis series M6 Do Not Ask Me Why.

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Christopher Brosius

Mr. Brosius is at his best as a perfumer when he chooses to try and interpret something as unusual as opium smoke. M6 Do Not Ask Me Why works as a simple construction of narcotic white flowers over spice and smoke. If opium smoke does carry a floral scent to it, and neither I nor Mr. Brosius has experienced the real thing, using white flowers seems almost logical. I refer to the depth of many of these as narcotic all the time. It is because they are strong but also mesmerizing in the way they display unseen levels beneath the obvious floralcy. By using a grouping of white flowers the central floral accord is never identifiable as just one. Instead it forms something it is difficult to tear your attention away from. I think that there is jasmine, narcissus, and tuberose in this accord. There might be more but this is what I think I detect. Mr. Brosius has balanced whatever the notes used so well it seems supernatural, almost its own opium dream of a hallucinatory flower. The remaining notes are a very ephemeral foundation of smoke and spice. After having this on my skin for a few hours like intermittent puffs the spicy smoke glides across the florals only to seemingly disappear again. Only very late in the development do they have enough presence to stick around on a more permanent basis.

M6 Do Not Ask Me Why as a water perfume has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Brosius has lived up to his self-imposed goal of making a “hauntingly beautiful” floral perfume. I don’t know if this is what opium smoke really smells like. I only know that this is something I do want to smell like. Do not ask me why.

Dsiclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums de Nicolai Cuir Cuba Intense- Memories of Domino Park

Growing up in Miami in the 1960’s was a wonderful experience for me. One of the big reasons was the Cuban exile community known as Little Havana was a bicycle ride from my front door. Once I would make the turn onto Calle Ocho it was like crossing an invisible border as the signs were all in Spanish and the people on the street weren’t speaking English. I was very slowly learning a hybrid of Spanish and English which allowed me to communicate. In South Florida it is called Spanglish and it developed into its own dialect similar to Creole French around New Orleans. My destination most days was Domino Park. Over the course of a few months I had been taught the game and developed an aptitude for it. I was given a nickname by most of the older men “El Joven”. As I became a better player I felt there was a real pride in the men who had been my teachers. A roar of laughter would go up when I slapped my final tile down with a cry of victory. As much as I enjoyed playing the game the smells of the park were equally as exotic. Many of the players smoked cigars. I always stopped to pick up a serving of flan. If you asked me to describe the smell of Domino Park I would say it was cigars and flan. Perfumer Patricia de Nicolai must have channeled my memories because her latest release Parfums de Nicolai Cuir Cuba Intense captures that mix of caramel dessert and freshly rolled cigars almost perfectly.

Mme de Nicolai has been creating perfume under her Parfums de Nicolai brand for twenty-five years. She is part of the Guerlain bloodline but she has forged her own distinctive identity almost from the start. One of those first releases, New York, is still one of my favorite perfumes of all-time. From that auspicious start she has created over 50 perfumes and it is a collection that has never been afraid to take risks. Mme de Nicolai, according to the press release, was inspired by the smell of a cigar box. That cigar box must have been close to a jar of licorice and caramels because Cuir Cuba Intense matches the tobacco with those gourmand facets for much of its development. The promised leather is only around in a very transparent way.

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Patricia de Nicolai

Cuir Cuba Intense begins with a double dose of licorice as Mme de Nicolai uses anise and licorice as the focal note for the top notes. Lemon and mint are around to add a bit of context but the early moments are all licorice. The list of notes show the heart to be full of floral notes but of all the ones listed magnolia is the most prominent. The burnt caramel accord is constructed of coriander, sage, hay, and liatrix. This is the smell of cooked caramel and it comes together in a mouth-watering way. Mme de Nicolai adds in a bit of orthogonal cumin. For me it is the smell of sweat on a S. Florida day. It is noticeable and if you are cumin averse it could pull you out of the spell Cuir Cuba Intense is weaving. Thr liatrix is a great choice to use as a raw material because it has a very high coumarin content and along with the other contents in the essential oil it also has a bit of tobacco character as well. Tobacco absolute forms that smell of freshly rolled cigars and patchouli adds depth to it. Musk and civet form the leather accord but it is a supporting player in this perfume not as prominent as you might expect from a fragrance with cuir in the name.

Cuir Cuba Intense has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

For the last twenty-five years Mme de Nicolai has been forging her own language of perfume. With Cuir Cuba Intense she has fused the worlds of French perfumery and Latin America charm into a delightful ride to my memory of Domino Park.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Guerlain French Kiss & Santal Royal- Ending 2014 with a Whimper

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Last week in one of the perfume groups I participate in one of the members listed the twenty releases from Guerlain in 2014. When I looked at it as a group it was startling to see the message those twenty releases sent. It showed that, at least for 2014, Guerlain and perfumer Thierry Wasser seemed to be interested in trying to cater to a much younger clientele. There were La Petite Robe Noire flankers. A Shalimar stripped of most of its challenging facets. L’Homme Ideal failed on almost every level. Teracotta Le Parfum was the lone bright point and a fantastic new addition. As the year wound down there were two last releases I had hope for. The latest addition to the Elixir Charnel series called French Kiss and Santal Royal. Both of these were examples of that which surrounded them this year and hewed to this less challenging aesthetic Guerlain seems to be courting.

French Kiss has been summed up in a simple surface one-liner as a niche version of La Petite Robe Noire. If it was, in fact, this I would have welcomed that. La Petite Robe Noire is a beautifully done mass-market perfume which Guerlain does well. I’m not sure it is deserving of the number of flankers it has been saddled with since its release five years ago. Then again neither does Shalimar. French Kiss is a little more daring than La Petite Robe Noire as I think M. Wasser understood he could add a little more. As a result the cherry becomes raspberry and it is paired with a super sweet lychee. This makes the opening moments very sweet. It will probably be a bit too much for some. The heart is a wonderful pairing of rose and violet which seem to imperiously sweep away that saccharine beginning. Iris broadens the floral heart and this is where French Kiss is at its most appealing. The finish is trademark Guerlinade. If French Kiss came from a different perfume company I would cut it a lot more slack but as a it comes from Guerlain it is disappointing for not pushing the envelope a little more. French Kiss has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

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Thierry Wasser

Santal Royal is just something that misses the mark by a mile. The press release says Santal Royal will be a deep dark oriental of sandalwood and oud. It is supposed to be “shrouded in mystery”. Instead it is all too obvious in construction and pedestrian. It opens on a whisper of jasmine and neroli which strengthens into a solid note of rose paired with cinnamon. It leads to a very common leather accord which is matched up with the sandalwood and the oud. This felt so much like “perfume by numbers” as there is absolutely nothing here which is special. It is not terrible but it is just so lacking in any imagination that it is surprising. The other thing about this is it lasts much less that I expected on my skin only getting about 8 hours out of my morning application with modest sillage.

I don’t think we will be looking back at 2014 as a watershed year for Guerlain as the last two releases were as uninspiring as the previous seventeen except for Terracotta Le Parfum.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle The Night- Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself…

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Ever since oud was introduced to the west a little over fifteen years ago it has become one of the most used ingredients in perfumery over that time. Especially over the last five years there has been a virtual wave of oud perfumes. The funny thing is most people who have worn those perfumes have never smelled the real thing. Most often it is either one of the synthetic ouds or cypriol/nagarmotha as a substitute in those perfumes. The real oud is so expensive to source, and create, the real stuff is difficult to find. I have spent a lot of time over the past few years buying direct from Asian sources to acquire a little of the real thing. Real oud is one of the most fascinating substances a perfumer can use. What region it comes from, how old the tree being harvested is, how long the oil has aged, all have an effect on its profile. For those of you who want to try real oud the opportunity has arrived with the release of the new Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle The Night by perfumer Dominique Ropion.

The Night is purported to contain an “unprecedented” amount of oud from India. M. Ropion only adds in two other notes, Turkish rose and amber. From the moment I opened my sample there was no doubt in my mind this was indeed real oud. When I, and others, write about oud we remark on it with unflattering adjectives like medicinal, band-aid-y, cheesy, dirty gym socks. Those don’t inspire one to want to put something like that on their body. The funny thing it is the combination of all of those derogatory aspects which make real oud so much fun to wear. I would also be the first to admit that it is an acquired taste. If you let the more confrontational character of oud push you away you will miss something sublime. In The Night M. Ropion clearly understands this and so keeps the perfume simple.

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Dominique Ropion

When I put The Night on for at least two hours it is nothing but the Indian oud. It smells like any of the oud oils I own. Indian oud tends to tilt towards the dirty bandage side of the oud spectrum. There is also a bit of cheese here too but it predominantly is the medicinal oud on display. These first two hours you might feel like this perfume is wearing you instead of the other way around. Because I knew what was coming I had a chance to mentally brace myself for the onslaught. There was still a bit of struggle but this Indian oud is an excellent choice to use because it really does display the quirky nature of pure oud. When the Turkish rose does finally make an appearance hours after first application it probably takes another couple of hours for it to even begin to make an impression with the oud. Once it does happen you can really appreciate why rose has been the historical yin to oud’s yang. The Turkish rose used here has an enhanced spicy core and it is that which allows it to gain some traction. The rose feels like it is the chaperone in bringing real oud to a western audience. Amber is used as an opaque shimmer of finishing but The Night is all about the oud and then the rose and the oud.

The Night has ridiculous longevity of over 24 hours. It also has significant sillage. This is a perfume to wear and appreciate around others who enjoy fragrance.

The Night is going to cause a lot of commotion once it makes its way to the usual Editions de Parfums stockists next year. There are many who are going to learn what they always thought was oud was something else. I kept hearing Mick Jagger singing the opening line of “Sympathy for the Devil” imagining these reactions. The ones who persevere will be rewarded with an experience of oud unlike anything they have tried before.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke